Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Life After Star Wars

There used to be a time when people stopped caring about Star Wars.  Around 1985, Return of the Jedi had become a couple of years old, the children had moved on and well, adults were adults.  During that time the general public was not concerned with the “newest things”.  The general public wasn’t foaming at the mouth for more movie sequels, an over abundance of video games, and more information, like that of the internet.  There was no social media or not so clever memes of Willy Wonka basically saying the same condescending taunts on Facebook.  It was a time of new ideas, and breaking ground of our imaginations.  People experienced what they had, and a lot of the times, enjoyed it.

Don’t confuse people not caring for Star Wars as them not liking it.  They did…a lot.  But there was this dry spell from 85 to the early 90’s where people moved on.  I, however, did not.  I loved Star Wars every day of my life.  I wasn’t clamoring for more of it.  I enjoyed what I had, which were three, original visionary films created by my biggest influence as a writer/storyteller: George Lucas.  During this time the space was lonely.  There weren’t many people to talk to about it anymore, and there wasn’t anything Star Wars on the shelves, be it magazines, toys, clothes, and what-have-you.  This was fine.  Back then, we didn’t care as much.  These were my movies, and I held them sacred.  It was the greatest story ever told in my eyes. 

Flash forward to the early 90’s and the Star Wars resurgence began!  New toys?!?  Novels like Heir to the Empire?!?  Comics from Dark Horse?!?  It was an amazing time.  The drought had ended.  Star Wars wasn’t everywhere, but it was still hanging on.  But there were no new movies.  This was what was dubbed as the Expanded Universe (EU).  The premise behind it was these were new Star Wars stories, but they did not necessarily fit into the lore of the movies.  After all the movies were sacred.  If a story was awesome, great!   But if not, hey no skin off my back, it was just the EU.
Come 1997, George Lucas announced the Star Wars Special Editions where there would be new footage, and revamped special effects.  All of sudden the world was on fire again about Star Wars!  I wasn’t alone anymore.  People were again feeling the way I did every day (I always tell people, everyday is May the 4th for me).  This was awesome.  Then the movies came out.  I for one left the theater excited about the new editions, of what Lucas and current special effects were becoming capable of, and also what the future may hold for Star Wars with the announcement of Episodes 1-3.  Everyone else however, was less than ecstatic.  “My Childhood was Ruined!”  is the most common gripe.  And it was loud.  This was the general consensus.  I shrugged it off, and headed to the future:  The Star Wars Prequels.

Around 1998, the first marketing began to show up for the first of the SW Prequels, The Phantom Menace.  I remember walking in the mall with my cousin Justin, and we were stopped dead in our tracks by the teaser poster, of a young Anakin Skywalker, casting the shadow of the fateful villain he was to become.  Needless to say we lost our collective minds!  It was so ominous, and there was so much mystery in the brilliant poster.  We officially couldn’t wait.  A few months down the road, my good friend Dewey brought home the first Phantom Menace trailer home recorded on VHS!  It was amazing!  But what was amazing was it looked different to me.  There was something new happening in the SW Universe that we had never seen before.  It was bright, clean, and noble, with a splash of ominous darkness about it.  There was a contrast to what the original trilogy was, but it was still Star Wars.  I felt this way after leaving the theater the first night.  The prequel trilogies became an addition to my favorite movies, and story ever told.  Everyone else however hated them.  These movies were not the same, and yes they were clunky to begin, and smoothed out gradually in my opinion, but they were so imaginative, and visually striking while retaining all the subtle qualities that the original trilogy held.  Not many people felt the same.  This was fine.  It was okay that the people that loved Star Wars continued to be just a small group, to carry on the excitement, and joy of these stories alone.  But that isn’t what happened.  Hate and venom spewed out from everywhere regarding the prequels, and even worse, a lot of it was geared toward the creator himself, George Lucas.  Horrible, disgusting things have been said about the man on a personal level.  “He shouldn't have done this, Star War belongs to us!”  “Lucas a horrible writer/director!”  People even went as far to say “George Lucas should die”. 

The weird thing in my mind was always “This man gave us this thing we claim to love so much, Star Wars.  Who are we to tell him what he should do with it, or that it even belongs to us.”  It isn’t ours.  It never was.  We are confusing our memories, or how we felt the first time we saw the A New Hope, with that of ownership.  We own those memories, and not the story that gave them to us.   Those stories belong to the creator first and foremost.  It doesn’t mean anyone has to like it, but if you don’t it is time to move on and let go of that personal attachment to what you think belongs to you and doesn’t.  The prequels are done, and made, and they are forever part of the lore of Star Wars. 
After Revenge of the Sith, the prequel stigmata stayed.  The excitement that I once received from any new Star Wars information was then destroyed by the internet.  It wasn’t just the trolls in the comments, but also the journalists, and writers of the articles and in the media.  It is almost impossible to find anything SW related without the hate for the prequels and its creator to come through.  It also became hard to talk about Star Wars with people in general without the animosity toward the Prequels coming out in the conversation.  People’s views on Star Wars were unfortunately tainted.  People will even go as far as to ask “what the hell is wrong with you for liking the Prequels”.  I explain myself with some people being respectful of my opinion, and some not.  So the cycle goes on and on.  But like a Jedi would tell us, “Let go of your feelings”.  These are people’s opinions and I cannot changes theirs, nor can they change mine.

Now we are in the midst of another Star Wars resurgence.  This time the difference is the creator George Lucas is nowhere to be seen.  As the rights to Star Wars was sold to Disney, Lucas has passed the torch of his creation to a new generation of SW fans and creators with promises of creating that feeling we once had in 1977 of seeing our beloved movies for the first time.  The problem is, you can’t recreate that.  I read an article about the Halloween movies once, where the producers talked about the 3rd movie in the rebooted series started by Rob Zombie.  The producer went on to say “They want to give the fans another Halloween movie that captures the feelings they received from watching the original, created by John Carpenter, for the first time.  IT IS WHAT THE FANS DESERVE”.  What is it that we deserve exactly?  The delusion of capturing a once in a lifetime feeling again?  With The Force Awakens, I feel that is what we got.

The Force Awakens was a decent movie.  And everyone else thought so too.  As a matter of fact, it has and is being treated as the savior of the Star Wars universe, from the wronging of the prequels and George Lucas himself.  But in all honesty what did George Lucas do that was really wrong?  He told a story that he wanted to tell, pure and simple.  He did not reboot a franchise, and he didn’t mess up something that was created by someone else.  I had someone today tell me that he loves The Force Awakens, and HATES Lucas.  This seems to be the reoccurring theme when it comes to peoples feeling about SW in general:  Biting the hand that fed them.  When Star Wars was first released in 1977, there was a reason it was so extraordinary:  it was a visionary film, created by a visionary writer/director.  It was something that literally, no one had seen before.  This is why it was so amazing.  There was a real gamble on the whole thing, but a young man, needed to tell his story.  And in 2015, JJ Abrams, told it again with The Force Awakens.  I feel this was a movie made by angry fans to tell a story they thought other angry fans would want.  If a great story is to be truly told, the writer/artist needs to stay true to themselves, and write the best story they can.  If it is deserved, it may be loved by the masses.  The Force Awakens is riding on the coat tails of these ideals, by drenching the story so much in nostalgia, and the stories that were already told in original movies, that if feels like a well done fan film, that takes little chances.  I know people are aware of it, and ironically they don’t want to hear about how TFA is the same as A New Hope, however, I fully believe Star Wars is better than this.

After seeing The Force Awakens, I left the movie theater angry.  I was angry that the movie played on our emotional connection to the originals, but I was also angry that everyone was happy about it.  After that feeling wore off, and I let it go, I started to feel a bit liberated.  Me hanging on the fact that I don’t like The Force Awakens means nothing in the grand scheme of things.  I don’t care either way anymore.  If the new Star Wars movies from here on out are good, than that is awesome.  If not, it isn’t a big deal either.  To me this is just the beginning of the new Expanded Universe, and I can accept that.  The complete Saga is that of its creator, Episodes 1-6, the Story of the Rise and Fall of Anakin Skywalker, by George Lucas.  I am not one for TV shows, or any kind of story lines that keep going forever.  I enjoy a more focused beginning middle and end.  I hate when I’m told to watch a TV show because of how good it is. The structure is that so it can drag people on, cliff hanger after cliff hanger.  The Original Star Wars Saga did not do this.  There was one big surprise, and the plot did not deviate from the greater story.  I guess that is why it is so sacred to me, and brought me to my conclusion:  I don’t want or need more Star Wars movies. 

As far as liking Star Wars, personally, it will always be difficult going forward.  If anything, I hope that the excitement of the new movies help people move on from what they hate about the prequels, or Special Editions, so that I can read an article, or even talk to someone about SW that is not overflowing with malicious contempt. It makes me wish that it was still the early 90’s when everything was quiet, and I could read a new Star Wars article that wasn’t based off of hate, and was more about excitement.   Believe it or not there are people who like all the original Star Wars movies, just as I am going to have to accept that most people love The Force Awakens.  However I will never accept the unadulterated hate for George Lucas himself.  I could almost understand if he was an awful person.  But he is a man who raised his children by himself, and donated the money he received from Disney to children’s charity.  He is the man who paid the fines of every crew member of The Empire Strikes Back out of his own pocket, because he insisted the opening crawl be included in his film.  He is the man, who fought to do something different than everything else Hollywood shoved down people’s throats, as they continue to do today.  He gave us our childhoods, and helped create a slew of writers, and artists, by showing us what is capable of a visionary imagination.  He is the man that gave us Star Wars, and he doesn’t owe me anything.